Monday, July 30, 2012

Moonstone Melody

 A few weeks ago my daughter and I went to a bead show in Pasadena.  We had a fun afternoon together--we always do!  While there she saw some bezel set moonstone connectors that she loved.  So I picked thru a selection, brought them home and strung them on a gold filled chain for her birthday last week.  I think she loved them as much as I enjoyed putting them together for her.
Simple and the perfect length to wear doubled or single strand. 

My baby turned 30 last week and she is soon to be mother herself for the first time.  She is a constant source of joy in our lives--sweet, thoughtful, loving and good to the core--always off on another adventure--I think being a mother may be her greatest (and most rewarding) adventure yet!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rockin' the Night Away

Remember I talked awhile ago about my walks on the beach being more like a harvest of rocks from the sea  than a brisk stroll?  Not knowing what I was really going to do with them, I was 'collecting' and collecting and collecting.  I used the biggest ones for decorating and plan to use some to make a bath mat.  I thought about using some for jewelry, but I don't wirewrap very well---not patient enough...and I don't drill either.

Well, I asked my husband if he could drill rocks...he said he'd give it a try and above are the result of his first days efforts in my behalf.  The problem was just drilling thru, meant they all chipped on the back side. They looked great from the front, but those chips weren't quite cutting it.  (punny, huh)

 If at first you don't succeed, read a tutorial and try to follow a few nights later, he invited me on a 'date' to drill rocks.  This time I was ready with my spray bottle of water (to keep the drill bit cool) and he was ready with some 'tile and glass' drill bits...and he only drilled half way thru, then turned the stones over to drill the other side to meet somewhere close to the middle...and woohoo! we had drilled beach rocks...without chips!!! Team Voges--his drill, my spray bottle. And they drilled happily ever after..until our backs hurt from so much fun.

What a guy, you say?  And I agree---what other guy would stand over a drill and get sprayed with water while he drilled rocks for his ditzy wife who wanted them to play with.  He's a keeper for sure, yep, we just celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary this week, so I think I'll keep him for awhile longer--an eternity will do.

Oh, by the way, don't worry, we didn't drill all our rocks...there's plenty more where those came from and I know where to get more...whether I need them or not!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cookin' Up Some Fun on my Viking Stove

 As I mentioned in some earlier posts, I've noticed changing tastes in metals used in jewelry design toward the more rustic looks using patina-ed copper and brass, so I finally gave in and ordered me a little stash to see what I could do with it.  Well, some of the first things have started to arrive.  I only ordered pure copper so I could play a little.  I got out my ball plien hammer and a little hand held propane torch and planned a fun afternoon.  First off I ordered a steel anvil, but it's not here, so piling some papers on my marble countertop I began to gingerly hammer away at a couple of copper washers and it actually worked..mostly.  The soft surface rounded the washers a bit, but I thought that was interesing as I was getting that 'hammered' copper look.  Then I went to work on a couple of toggle clasps, loved the hammered look those got, but in my enthusiasm I damaged (knocked off) the ball end of one of the toggles--oops!  Now I was ready to try a little heat patina......
Being just slightly apprehensive about my new little torch, I decided to try some heat patina on my gas stove first just to see if it would work.  I got my handy dandy stainless salad tongs and gingerly held onto my hammered washer and started waving it back and forth across the top of the flame on my stove burner and voila color started appearing in dark oranges and reds and was I having fun!  Next over the flame came my toggles.  I may never have to use the pesky propane my copper was lots of fun and the results put a smile on my face...Now all I have to do is wait for the rest of my 'stuff' to arrive and figure out how to use it in some jewelry design. 

Wait till you see what I did with my beach time..........

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

 Last spring my husband and I spent a month in La Quinta, near Palm Springs and I took advantage of all the beautiful window shopping available in the area.  One of my favorite  pieces of eye candy was a stunning bracelet in the design studio of Denise Roberge.  Her workshop is on the premises of her showroon and as I understand it , she personally picks all the gemstone and all her designs are hand forged and cast in pure 22k gold.  She's an incredible artist and her jewelry is a work of art.  My mother has collected some of her work over the years and the pieces are timeless classics.  The bracelet I fell in love with had three humongous barrel shaped tourmalines set in rich heavy yellow gold--a piece worthy of an Etruscan princess, with a price tag to match.   I wish I had a picture of that gorgeous bracelet to share, so you could drool over it with me, but alas I don't. (at the bottom of the page I will post one of her stunning designs so you can see what I mean by stunning art)

I've thought about that piece ever since, so when I came across a strand of large carved flourite beads I knew I wanted to try them in a bracelet.  These might be the prettiest colors of flourite beads I've ever seen--one is aquamarine, another a teal blue (almost the color of blue tourmaline) and the third bead is the same rich aquamarine color with amethyst color in one corner.  I don't think I would have thought that size of bead was suitable for a bracelet without my 'inspiration piece'.  Of course what I did  has nothing in common with the original inspiration except perhaps that I used three large stones.  I have to say thank you though for putting the seed of inspiration in my head and giving me the courage to plunge ahead with a new idea.
I combined the stones with hammered gold vermeil toggle clasp and a single hammered vermeil bead and linked them together with goldfilled chain.  The bracelet is easy to wear and flexible and I really love the way it looks on the wrist. To give you an idea of the size of the stones--they weigh over 42 carats per gemstone,  and each stone is almost an inch long, and the yummy colors, oh my!  Now I'm off to try another idea--there's inspiration everywhere.

This is not the piece that inspired me, but the same designer--this piece would inspire anyone.  Gorgeous to the max!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Back in the Day

I started designing jewelry for fun about 12 years ago and was lucky to have found a niche market with artisan lampwork when there weren't many doing handmade artisan jewelry.  Above is one of my earlier pieces.  One of the things I was particular about was using the best quality components--sterling and hilltribe silver, gold filled and gold vermeil, swarovski crystals, designer clasps and beads.  There were two reasons for that---I love nice things and good quality and I also realized that I could not compete with the cheap imports.

After several years at my workbench, I took an extended time off and just recently returned to jewelry design.  I have been really enjoying getting back to working my way thru my stash, but find major sticker shock when needing to replace components.

When I started,  the first Bali sterling silver I purchased was 35 cents a gram and Hilltribe silver was 45 cents a gram.  Vermeil and gold filled findings were just a pinch higher.  That was for clasps, beads, jump rings, everything. Then a few years later when I started buying designer findings, I thought it was sky high to pay 85 cents a gram for special toggles and connectors, that no one else had. I think most of my last purchases for the really great findings was in the neighborhood of $1.10 per gram sterling and maybe $2.10 for gold vermeil and gold filled. You can imagine my surprise when I returned this past spring to jewelry design and I  finally computed how much it would cost me to replinish my supply of precious metal findings as I worked down thru my stash!  At a  recent show production line Bali sterling silver was $2 a gram and the prices went up from there to around $4.00 a gram and more--wholesale.  Other materials have gone up too, but not by the same proportion.   Is it any wonder that copper, bronze and brass have replaced the metals used in jewelry design? 

Last week I wanted a handful of 4mm jump rings, didn't want to wait to order them so I went to my local retail jewelry store.  They wanted 30 cent each for sterling silver 4mm jump rings.  They were 22 guage and by my calculations that would mean sterling jump rings were going for close to $300 an ounce.  Whaaaaaat?!?  If you bought 100 you got a 25% discount--now that's a deal!  That was a retail store, but wow! I think I'm going into the jump ring business!!!

So, going with the trend, because taste has followed right along,--the once snubbed copper and brass, are now the fashion followers new 'must haves', I went in search of some new findings with those metals.  Ack!!!! Findings in pure copper and quality antiqued brass or bronze are more than I last paid for sterling silver, just three or four years ago!  I do understand the pricing for sterling and gold filled/vermeil findings due to the market prices for those metals, but I really do not understand copper.  It is currently trading for around $3.40 a pound...not an ounce, a how did copper findings get so expensive?  I look at my boxes of sterling silver and realize I have to pay the same or more for copper and that is sticker shock.  Then I look at my sterling silver and fine silver and gold vermeil findings and realized that if I use them and want to replace them, it prices my jewelry designs in the pricy range.  So I try to split the difference--use a little, price things fairly.  I think I may just save my silver for scrap--it's an investment hedge and using it in jewelry I'm looking old school and costing too much, lol.  Of course, the real conundrum comes--replace it with base metals components that require a substantial investment at current prices and they don't really have much actual value compared to precious metals. What to do, what to do!

 So, I've gone thru my stash of beautiful designer findings and decided to sell some at discounted prices in my vintage/destash etsy store--check them out if you're looking for a special  piece.  
An example---this Saki Silver sterling and gold vermeil clasp is 28mm, retails around $85, I'm offering it for $60--about a 30% discount.

 Here's a big, bold Shiana Hilltribe .999 fine silver clasp that is a hammered heart, for sale in my etsy store as well...12 grams and I'm selling below wholesale for $28.00
Some Saki silver sterling connectors that currently retail for $18 apiece I'm destashing for less....
and it goes on.  Some of these things have become almost impossible to find,  As I get them photographed I have lots more to share... and possibly whittle down my stash...or not.  Otherwise my surplus will just end up as an inflation hedge. It's likely on the way, so maybe silver will be the new gold standard!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fancy Nancy

 Well, if you don't know who Fancy Nancy is, then you must not know any little girls!  I was introduced to her by my little niece, Miss Karma, who has loved Fancy Nancy for some time. Fancy Nancy is a little girl who likes tea parties and fancy dresses and who has a colorful and very prissy imagination.  Now most little girls these days do more practical things and don't have time for such frufru's--unless you happen to be the daughter of one of the Housewives of Beverly Hills, lol--have you seen the parties they throw for their children?!? 
But nevertheless, these gorgeous gem-toned lampwork beads made by Corina Tettinger have been lingering in my stash for awhile now.  I loved them so much I couldn't let go of them...but this week as I was digging thru my treasures and came across these again--they shouted FANCY NANCY--do something glitzy-glam and treat us like gemstones instead of lampwork, so that's what I did.  I mixed them with some filigreed gold vermeil and a snazzy amethyst and gold vermeil clasp and finished it off with a trio of gemstone charms---a peruvian blue chalcedony briolette, a rich amethyst briloette and a mandarin garnet briolette.  Rich colors, girly girl design, lots of embellishments and gold.  An absolute necessity for your next Tea Party with the Queen, or garden party in Beverly Hills...or maybe you could wear it with your favorite sundress for a stroll in the park, on the beach or most anywhere at all.  It's just a little fancy after all and what girl doesn't want fancy now and then???  xxxooo

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sunset in Paradise Up on My Roof

 Yes, that's how we felt last night when Mitch and I were looking out our living room picture window and saw the beginnings of a beautiful sunset.  We grabbed our cameras and ran upstairs to the rooftop deck to take in the 360 degree spectacular show from Mother Nature.  We were well rewarded for our efforts as you can see.
 This might have been one on my all time most beautiful sunsets.  As the  skys became mor vivid and the clouds seemed to be baking in their glory, I wanted to burst out singing one of my favorites from the cantata Elijah--"The Heavens are telling the glory of God.  The wonder of His works displays the firmament."
This was our view looking towards the sunset northwest across the beach and towards Santa Barbara.
 We really do feel blessed to live in this beautiful place where the wonders of nature are all around us every day.  From our rooftop we get a 360 degree view of mountains, ocean, islands and sand that makes my heart skip a beat on a regular basis.  This picture is facing the Channel Islands and looks out over the ocean.
One final picture looking southeastward over the harbor towards the mountains and away from the sunset.  It was no less spectacular in color--the sky was sooo pink that the reflection on the water in the harbor made it appear pink as well.  I pink ocean afloat with little sailboats bobbling on the water.  So glad we didn't miss this glorious display of heavenly glory.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Variations on a Theme--the Beach

SIMPLE A tale of three bracelets with the same shaped beads--different colors, different construction...Blue Hawaii is wirewrapped together with hammered hilltribe fine silver links that have been oxidized and then embellished with turquoise and czech glass charms--
BUSIER Then we have The Dunes, with similar shaped lampwork seashells (glass for all bracelets torched by Judy Carlson, Jujeebeads) but this time strung together with beading wire and combined with freshwater pearls and a pair of hilltribe fine silver nautilus beads and a sterling toggle clasp...similar, but different in the way they fit and the look...
BUSIEST Now here are the same shaped seashell beads wirewrapped to a copper chain and used as charms, combined with turquoise, coral, gemstone and heat patina copper nautilus, finished with a coral toggle clasp...lots of color, varied materials, textures and shapes all dancing on a chain.

Three sets of similar shaped beads, served up in three different ways...which one speaks to you?  I loved doing all three designs--Variations on a Theme.  I always enjoyed baroque music when I was a piano student--start simple then embellish, and embellish and embellish on a theme until it was a decadently ornate version of it's original imitating music, eh?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Something Simple

I love these earrings--I put them together the other day for a gift and they make me wish I had pierced ears.  So simple, but rich one of my favorite stones---faceted turquoise with gold vermeil.  Although I love designing ornate. complex things--when it comes time to wear jewelry myself I typically go for the most simple designs--although I never shy away from color in accessories. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Raku, Enamel and Me

 Last week I splurged with some cash I had sitting in my paypal account and purchase a few enamel beads from Kristen (theBeadSwede) on etsy.  I love every thing enameled. and when I saw her shop I had to have a couple of pieces to play with.  When they arrived I was delighted--they were very well done, quick to ship, and a perfect size for using in jewelry. 
 At the same time I was digging thru my bodacious, but slowly dwindling lampwork stash and ran across some gorgeous raku  discs and orphan urchin beads by Dawn Scannell (Art Insomnia)  that I was toying with for bracelet design...I just happened to lay one of my new enameled beads next to the bracelet I was working on, and a new idea to pair them together made me think it was meant to be.
 I like asymetric, saturated color and mixing all together they went in a frenzy of organization  before I lost my excitement about these components...or decided to hoard them in my stash, because I couldn't part with them...Copper and 22k gold vermeil, an amethyst gemstone charm, an enameled copper flower charm, a whole wrist full of the most gorgeous saturated, detailed lampwork treasures and it's a bracelet!
I had so much fun with I can enjoy a whole strand of favorite things together--it's like they were meant for one another.  They're off to my etsy store one day soon, but today, I think I'll just enjoy!  Thank you Dawn and Kristen for making such beauties to brighten my day!

Friday, July 13, 2012

How to Turn Sizzle into Fizzle

Yep, I'm talking about my sizzling summer sale of the past week.  It was a phenomenal fizzle.  I'm not complaining, but just musing a little about what's happened to my little 'business' that really has been more of a 'hobby that paid for itself'.  I know I suspended my blog and didn't pay any attention to my etsy store for a couple of years while we were off trying to figure out some family issues, and I know the economy has shrunk the potential customer base, and I also know that there are almost 22000 lampwork bracelets and almost 25000 lampwork necklaces on etsy and jewelry has just saturated the market which certainly figures into the equation...but I also know there are some innovative and fabulous designers out there who are selling alot of beautiful jewelry even with all that. (Whew, how is that for a world record run-on sentence, lol)  I have to conclude my designs are a little stale, a little underwhelming, not innovative enough.  I think to distinguish yourself ,you have to be exceptionally innovative, original and find a niche where the market isn't so saturated.  Right now, I'm just I'm falling short. I get plenty of views and even lots of favorites in my etsy store, but I suspect it's mostly other jewelry designers looking for inspiration rather than buyers finding just what they're looking for at my place.  Hint to you other designers out there:  you probably aren't getting much sellable inspiration in my etsy store, because nobody is buying what I'm selling!  For sure, lampwork jewelry is a hard sell right now,and that was my original niche in the jewelry market. Another thing I've noticed is sterling silver and vermeil are used very sparingly right now.  Presumably to save costs, but I'm seeing designs with base metals and czech glass that are more stylish and selling for as much as my artisan lampwork, gemstone and sterling silver it's not the materials, it's the designer and maybe a little bit--the marketing. 

Now here's the bottom line.  I have boxes full of findings, gemstones, artisan lampwork and all other kinds of quality jewelry designs materials...I can either try to sell it all off at cost or below or use it for therapy--to please myself.  So, of course for the most part, as you might guess, I'll keep playing with my little treasures, use the materials I have to design things that are esthetically pleasing to myself.  Keep some, gift some, keep an etsy store and pretend I might sell some...and generally do what I started out to begin with--have a wonderful hobby that gives me a creative outlet where I can go and forget some of the everyday stuff that clutters my mind with confusion.  Fortunately I have wonderful family and friends who at least pretend they are delighted to get my little treasures--and for the most part I think they are--if only because it is a little handmade part of me that I made with love and my time.  And that is quite enough for me, shouldn't it be quite enough for anyone?  And who knows...maybe I'll get my mojo back and think up something fabulously innovative and gorgeous that will bring the world knocking at my door...and if I don't it's still cheap therapy!  (well, maybe only cheap while I'm working thru my bodacious stash, built up when I could sell everything I could make)  >^..^<

Thanks for listening to me think out loud....

Falling In Love Again

 It's no secret that I'm crazy about silverglass.  That's why there are several pieces hidden away in my stash that I pull out to admire now and then.  Working with a couple of my special pieces this week just made me fall in love all over again.
 The glass isn't all that easy to work with, just take a survey of lampwork artists and many were frustrated with how finicky the glass was to coax the colors to sing.  These pieces definitely were coaxed into all their glory by lampwork artist, Tiffany McCoy.  She's one of the best with silver glass and I do love these beauties. 
I've combined some boro beads from my stash with th three stunning silver glass beads and used 22k gold vermeil beads and toggle clasp to make the colors pop even more.  Dangling from the toggle is a silverglass seashell and a pacific opal Swarovski and pearl charm for a perfect finishing touch.  Love those beads!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sizzling Summer Sale

What's summertime without a sale?!?  Check out my etsy storefront for a coupon code to save 25% on everything in the store.  It's time to make your favorite designs part of your wardrobe before they're gone.  Sale ends Thursday, July 12th so don't delay!!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Celebrating Beachstyle

 Channel Islands knows how to celebrate the 4th of July and we had a birdseye view of the festivities.  The childrens parade staging was right across the street from our house and we got the first glimpse as it started along the parade route.  The color guard lead the way....
 Followed by a beach worthy 'float' that was quinticentially California dreamin'.....
 I had no idea there were so many children in the neighborhood until they were all congregated to take their places in the parade...there must have been at least 200 bikers, walkers, wagon riders all smiling and ready to march their way into our hearts.
 Classic cars filled with  cheering families and decked out
 One of the cutest wagons featured a couple of adorable sisters with their patriotic on...
Yep, that's a kayak with moms, dads, kids, granparents and pets just a little micro-glimpse of the neighbor celebrating Independence Day in the U.S.A. California Coast style. 

We sang, shouted and thrilled  thru races, parades, carnivals, family, feasts, and fireworks to pay homage to those who made our blessings and liberties possible.  A practically perfect day!!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Great Experiment

While not exactly a patriotic color theme, this pendant with it's beautiful detailed colors and harmony brings to my mind the great experiment that is the United States of America with it's melting pot of cultures, all brought together---maintaining our individually, but woven together in unity.  Our founding fathers, with inspiration from our Heavenly Father, crafted a constitution giving us the opportunity to stretch ourselves as we take responsibility for our own lives--giving us liberty to do so and the opportunity for our own pursuit of happiness.

Now a little about the beads in these two pieces.  These were torched by one of my all time favorite lampwork artists--Julie Wong of uglibeads.  As far as I know, she's retired from the torch now for several years.  She was making one of a kind, highly detailed, and precision perfect beads with fabulous stringer detail long before anyone else, I was aware of.  Such a perfectionist she is, and it shows in her beads.  I've held these for a long time knowing there would probably never be anymore Julie beads for me, but finally I've put them into a couple of designs that make me happy.  I value them highly,reflecting the art I consider them to be, and it won't hurt my feelings if they stay in my inventory for a long while; since to me, they are timeless works of art that gladden my soul.  Love you Julie--nobody does it better. 

And on one final notel--happy 4th of July---Independence Day---my beloved country!!!  Long may our Star Spangled Banner wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave!